FDA Bans ‘Waterproof,’ ‘Sweatproof’ Sunscreen Labels


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Not all sunscreens are created equal, and indeed, searching for the perfect formulation—waterproof, sweatproof, sunblock or spray—can overwhelm even the most decisive shopper. But a new set of rules regulating sunscreen released by the Food & Drug Administration on Tuesday aims to take the guesswork out of finding effective sun protection for consumers.

The rules, which go in effect next year, do away with the terms “waterproof,” “sweatproof” and “sunblock” on sunscreen labels, because such claims are impossible, says the FDA. Instead, as the organization explained in its press release, “water resistance claims on the product's front label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating,” and manufacturers will only be allowed to claim whether certain products are “water resistant” for either 40 or 80 minutes, based on standard testing.

In another win for consumers, the FDA will establish a standard test for over-the-counter sunscreen products to determine which products can be labeled as “Broad Spectrum.” Products passing the test will protect against cancer-causing ultraviolet A (UVA)and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation—UVA rays prematurely age the skin; UVB rays burn—and feature a label on the front indicating “Broad Spectrum” and SPF 15 or higher.

Any sunscreen with an SPF value between 2 and 14, the FDA adds, will carry a warning label stating it “has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early aging.”

Public health advocates, including the Skin Cancer Foundation and American Academy of Dermatology, are hailing the new regulations, which were 33 years in the making.

“Although science and technology has advanced over the past several years to improve the efficacy of sunscreens, there has been a long need to update the governmental regulations associated with them – particularly in the areas of UVA protection and labeling,” says Dr. Warwick L. Morrison, chairman of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee in a response to the new regulations.

The FDA is also pushing for regulation to require that sunscreens with SPF values more than 50 be labeled as “SPF 50+,” as the FDA has yet to find such products to be more protective than those with SPF values of 50. 

The FDA is also requesting “additional data to establish [the] effectiveness” of spray products and to determine whether they pose a health hazard when “inhaled unintentionally,” says the press release.

Check out the seven sun essentials to stash in your tote bag this summer on MainStreet.

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